Director: Eytan Fox
Cast: Efrat Dor, Dana Ivgy, Keren Berger
Watch Cupcakes online in the UK: TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Eircom / Virgin Media / EE
Nothing in the world is quite like Eurovision. Silly yet sincere, you can laugh at the nonsense, cheer at the sequins, or be charmed by the songs. It’s that rare event that can be enjoyed by cynics and sentimentals alike – even by those outside of Europe, judging by the Chinese jokes made by the hosts of this year’s contest.
If you’re missing that bizarre blend of heart and hilariously inappropriate dresses, Cupcakes may be for you. While everyone was distracted by Conchita Wurst’s beard, Eytan Fox’s film slipped quietly onto VOD and DVD. It follows a group of Israeli friends who accidentally enter the Universong Contest – and find themselves being chosen to represent their country.
Ofer, the gay one of the group, is delighted at the prospect. Everyone else is less so.
Things begin with a voiceover from blogger Keren, who laments about being true to yourself while we see alternative guitar-playing lesbian Efrat refusing to even acknowledge the annual tournament. Soon, though, they are all gathered round a telly watching the event, hosted by middle-aged baker Anat, who has just been left by her husband. Trying to cheer her up, they break into song – a natural, likeable ballad that becomes their ticket to national success.
Will former model Yael handle the being back in the spotlight? Will politician’s daughter Dana be comfortable exposing her less serious side? Will Keren ever leave her laptop behind and meet the internet speech therapist of her dreams?
So far, so stereotypical. But the cast incest their quirky roles with an surprisingly engaging depth. Homosexuality isn’t treated as a defining characteristic and neither is a broken marriage; what could be a cheesy, laboured tale of people striving to represent themselves (as well as their country, get it?) strums along with genuine soul and, more importantly, a toe-tapping soundtrack.
Cliches are celebrated rather than subverted, but done so in a way that feels honest; Eli Bijaoui’s script mocks Eurovision (one scene in which the band perform on TV having been “improved” by a PR team is laugh-out-loud accurate) but clearly loves it too. Sure, the climactic final looks a little ropey, reduced to a dance in front of a big green-screen, but after the extravagance of the real event last week, the low-key charm hits the spot. They may not be many sequins to cheer, but Cupcakes is closer to Eurovision than you might expect; a movie that can be enjoyed by cynics and sentimentals alike.